Lionsgate’s “La La Land” quietly crossed the $50 million mark at the domestic box office over the weekend as it more than doubled its locations count from 750 to 1,515, portending a strong future for the musical comedy-drama.
Despite snowy weather holding down overall moviegoing, two awards contenders generated solid grosses over the weekend — Fox’s “Hidden Figures” in second place with $21.8 million at 2,178 sites for an $8,822 per theater average and “La La Land” in fifth with $10 million and a $6,601 average.
It’s a nice payoff for Lionsgate’s strategy of opting to go with a platform release for the Emma Stone-Ryan Gosling vehicle to build awareness amid awards-season momentum. “La La Land” grossed $881,104 from five theaters in New York and Los Angeles on its opening weekend on Dec. 9-11. The film’s per-location average of $176,201 was the second-best ever for a specialty film after “Grand Budapest Hotel.”
“La La Land” expanded to 200 theaters on the next weekend and then to 750 on Christmas. More expansion will come Friday during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend — with the exact number tied to how well it does at Sunday’s Golden Globes, where it has nominations for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy), Best Director, Best Comedy/Musical Actor for Gosling, Best Comedy/Musical Actress for Stone, Best Screenplay, Best Original Score and Best Original Song.
Lionsgate’s distribution chief David Spitz told Variety that the timing could not be better — particularly given how well the movie is playing in all quadrants with plenty of repeat customers.
“We have tremendous momentum heading into the rest of the awards season,” he said. “It’s playing very well across the board, including males under 25. We’ll continue to expand during the MLK weekend and again after the Oscars are announced. We’ll go as wide as it merits.”
“La La Land” stars Stone as an aspiring actress while Gosling portrays a jazz musician. Lionsgate and Black Label media co-financed the $30 million project, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival to a 10-minute standing ovation on Aug. 31 with Stone being awarded the Volpi Cup for Best Actress.
“The strong word of mouth is the most important element,” Spitz said. “We knew we had something special before the film opened back in December.”
The soundtrack has also been bolstering momentum, coming in at number one this weekend on iTunes. The international box office run has just started with about $20 million in South Korea.
Hollywood studios have not released many musicals in recent years. The three most successful during the past two decades were 2012’s “Les Miserables” with $440 million in worldwide grosses; 2008’s “Mamma Mia!” with $609 million worldwide; and 2002’s “Chicago” with $306 million worldwide along with six Academy Awards including Best Picture.
Still, all three of those were based on successful stage shows, while “La La Land” is an original concept that came from “Whiplash” director Damien Chazelle with the idea of honoring the history of Los Angeles, jazz and musicals in a modern-day setting. Producers are Fred Berger, Gary Gilbert, Jordan Horowitz and Marc Platt.